Irish start-up praised for contribution to James Webb space telescopeBlathnaid O’Deaon January 4, 2022 at 12:13 Silicon RepublicSilicon Republic


Two Irish companies have been praised by the Government for their contribution to the James Webb space telescope project.

The international project is a collaboration between NASA, the European Space Agency (ESA) and Canadian Space Agency (CSA). The James Webb telescope was launched on 24 December from the Guiana Space Centre in South America. A successor to the Hubble space telescope, it is the largest and most powerful ever built.

Irish start-up Réaltra designed and manufactured the video system mounted on the telescope’s Ariane 5 launch vehicle. The system relayed high-definition video images of the separation of the launcher’s fairing and of the telescope separation as it headed on the start of the journey towards its final orbit location.

Réaltra is a division of electrical and electronic manufacturing company Realtime Technologies, which was founded in 1996 by Paddy White. He co-founded Réaltra in 2018 alongside the start-up’s CTO Diarmuid Corry and CCO Danny Gleeson.

This is the first time the video system has been used, having originally been developed for the Ariane 6 launch vehicle, the successor to Ariane 5, due for its first flight in 2022.

Nammo Ireland, which is a part of Norwegian international space engineering company Nammo, provided structural supports for the Vulcain engine that powers Ariane 5.

The Dublin-based branch will also manufacture components for both the Vulcain and Vinci engines on the new Ariane 6 launch vehicle. Nammo’s Irish facility has a fully equipped ISO 14644 Class 8 cleanroom. The cleanroom has designated assembly, integration and test work areas for carrying out environmental, flow and pressure tests.

Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail, Damien English, said “It was wonderful to see the successful launch of the James Webb space telescope, with images of the spacecraft starting its long journey streamed back to Earth by Irish technology and relayed around the world.”

English added that he would “eagerly anticipate the ground-breaking science” that will be enabled by the telescope, “with Irish scientists at the heart of uncovering the secrets of the formation of our Universe.”

Leo Clancy, CEO, Enterprise Ireland, also congratulated the Irish companies and scientists involved in the mission. “Irish companies have consistently shown that they can deliver innovative technologies to the space sector. Webb is the most ambitious space mission for many years, if not decades, and it is fitting that Ireland has played such a prominent role in the Ariane 5 launch, and also in the scientific instruments on the telescope itself.”

The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (DIAS) was also heavily involved in the project. DIAS’ team led by Prof Tom Ray was responsible for providing the telescope’s infrared technology to enable scientists to see further into space.

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